Post-Sandy, Pa. looks to plug in, get back to work

By Patrick Walters

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31 2012 3:24 a.m. MDT

Crews work to remove a damaged sign in the wake of superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Philadelphia. Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke Tuesday without power, and an eerily quiet New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air as superstorm Sandy steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain.

Matt Slocum, Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvanians made it through two days of rain and wind from Sandy on Tuesday with hopes of connecting back to the electrical grid, plans to finish cleaning up leaves and limbs and the prospect of returning to jobs or the classroom.

The storm that did so much damage along the coast before it drenched Pennsylvania was blamed for seven deaths in the state. It was more than a mild inconvenience for the million-plus who lost power and the countless others whose homes were damaged by blowing rain and falling trees, but it was not the disaster for the state that some had feared.

Gov. Tom Corbett said late Tuesday there were no reports of major flooding as the center of the weather system drifted west to Pittsburgh, and its winds diminished to 10 mph or so.

"We are breathing somewhat of a sigh of relief," he said at an evening news conference at the headquarters of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency outside Harrisburg. "I'll breathe a better sigh of relief when we get everybody back on line with electricity."

Power outages were the storm's most damaging byproduct, but the number of customers in the dark continued to fall Tuesday, to about 1 million. Officials were reluctant to predict when most people would see service restored, saying the extent of the damage was still being surveyed.

Corbett said teams of state troopers and Guardsmen, and a couple helicopters, would be deployed Wednesday to eyeball conditions in remote areas. A dollar estimate remained days away, at least.

The winds ripped leaves from trees, carpeting the ground with a colorful blanket and adding to slick conditions and creating work for homeowners.

Bill Crouch spent his Tuesday morning cleaning up fallen tree limbs from around his house and shed in Levittown, where a neighbor's tree was uprooted during the storm but did not cause any property damage.

Crouch had been without power since Monday evening. His biggest challenges were finding ice to keep his food from spoiling and batteries to keep his hand-held radio and flashlights working.

"We've got plenty of food but we don't know how long this is going to last," he said. "That's the dilemma right here."

Measured by the number of outages it caused, Sandy was a historic storm, ranking in the top three statewide.

Tammy Bertel and her husband lost power at their Harleysville home on Monday night, their first extended outage since moving into their house 15 years ago. But she took it in stride, calling it a minor inconvenience.

"We are perfectly fine. If we have to, we'll go stay in a hotel or with friends," Bertel said. "I've camped in the middle of a rainstorm. I'm not that high maintenance to begin with. It's not that big of a deal."

After two days off, state government workers were expected back on the job Wednesday.

Driving remained tricky in spots, as hundreds of local roads and bridges in eastern Pennsylvania were left impassable because of downed trees and power lines or flooding.

Corbett said the state was hearing reports that Amtrak and Philadelphia's mass transit system was slowly going back on line, a hopeful sign for travelers and commuters after two days of frustration.

In Pittsburgh, Susan Adamson, 47, was trying to get back to New York City and her job at a sports medicine clinic. She had flown to Pittsburgh on Friday to visit a friend and attend a Bruce Springsteen concert.

"I just feel a little bit powerless at this moment because I'm used to taking things into my own hands, but in this instance I can't," she said.

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